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This page last updated 26 December 2008
Anglicans Online last updated 20 August 2000

Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE publish a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking. Alas, we cannot publish every letter we receive. And we won't publish letters that are anonymous, hateful, illiterate, or otherwise in our judgment do not benefit the readers of Anglicans Online.

Please note that we edit letters to conform with standard AO house style for punctuation, but we do not change, for example, American spelling to conform to English orthography. Email addresses are included when the authors give permission to do so.

Ready to write a letter of your own to us? Click here.

19-25 May 2003

Numbers, proofs, epistemology

The following letters are about our cover letter of 18 May 2003. You can read it here.

• Peace! Nice work! Hard to believe you can do this much though not paid for it. Please keep it up.

Just can't refrain from saying 2=1 only if we have made the wrong assumption that a=b whereas we all know that they are very different. Yes we all make mistakes and that is why we should watch out for one another to help remove the speck (a=b) and careful to let others point out the log. (Well, Jesus said the 2 shall be 1 — and we believe.)

Tunde Popoola
St Paul's Anglican Church, Nyanya, Abuja
Abuja, Nigeria

• The mathematical "proof" that 2 = 1 reminds me of much of the rhetoric that has torn at the Anglican Communion from right and left over the past three decades or so. Dividing by zero is, in fact, a wonderful metaphor for the sort of invalid logical arguments that we all hear and read virtually every day.

Thank you for providing a forum for the voiceless ones in the silent majority of Anglican moderates. Let us hope that the quality of these contributions transcends the unhappy divisions that beset us.

Dale A Rye
Georgetown, Texas, USA

• Please publish the number of responses (like this one) which explain that the "proof" in the May 18 sidebar is mathematically invalid because the last step involves dividing by zero. Perhaps you could rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 from hilarious to vitriolic. The irony is that much of what passes for serious study in the modern church is fraught with moves that are analogous to dividing by zero.


Rich Gabrielson
Vestal, New York, USA

About 20 people wrote to comment on, correct, or analyze our proof. Since we were not writing for a mathematics journal, we were using the proof just as a metaphoric example. We thought about using another favourite proof of ours, whose logical flaw is much harder to spot: all horses are the same colour. If you enjoy these, take a look at the University of Toronto Mathematics department list of 'Classic Fallacies'.

• I appreciate the tone of your cover piece: in encourages humility and respect. However, it has an implication that may be unintended, but to which I would like to respond. Using the mathematical 'proof' as an example, the piece encourages the reader to use his or her experience as the test against which assertions must be measured. While I agree this is an important step, it is not sufficient. If the result of a 'proof' does not correspond to experience, then there must be a reason: either the 'proof' is defective, or the experience is incomplete or misinterpreted. Your piece implies that, when confronted with such a situation, experience should trump the 'proof.'

I would urge the thoughtful person to continue to wrestle with the subject, search for the defect in the proof, and seek to broaden experience until the source of the conflict is found. In the mathematical “proof” provided, all is well until the final step, when division by 0 occurs. Since division by 0 is not defined, the 'proof' is defective at this point and thus fails: 2 does not equal 1 after all.

I believe many discussions would generate more light and less heat if the participants would search for the defects in the arguments, and seek to broaden their experience, rather than simply trump the argument based on their (perhaps) limited experience.

Charles Morris
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

• Thank you for your discussion of epistemology. The algebraic proof you provided is a brilliant reminder that we are not all we think we are, and it's very sly to use mathematics to demonstrate this!

The traditional sources of ethical inquiry—Scripture, tradition, and reason, joined in some discussions by experience—are none of them adequate without the others. When the discussion turns to such volatile subjects as sexuality, we further encounter the limits of reasoned inquiry at the frontiers of emotion.

In my experience, people feel so strongly about these issues that no amount of persuasion, from any of these sources, can change minds, much less hearts. What helps people to overcome prejudice is the opportunity to rub elbows with real people from 'the other side', whichever side that is. This seems to me to be tied directly to the gift of the Incarnation. In our heads, our reasoning may be clear, our logic flawless—but when we encounter the Other as a flesh-and-blood human, whose experience differs from ours, our hearts can be changed. We can't grasp everything about a person, a place, or a thing through this kind of incarnational encounter, but we can gain a sense of them that will quickly shatter our reasoned theories about them. As current folk wisdom would have it, 'reality beats up on theory'. The Benedictine ideal of encountering Christ in the stranger—or our baptismal promise to 'seek and serve Christ in all persons'—reinforces this sense that knowing someone 'in person', rather than theorizing about what sort of person they might be—is a holy endeavor.

Berkeley, California, USA

Remembering Barbara Wolf

A dear friend of AO, Barbara Wolf, died a few weeks ago; here is an obituary. The following two emails give you a glimpse of her heart and her brilliant mind.

• Dear Anglicans Online, As the Rector of S. Mary's, Falmouth, Maine for the past twelve years I was privileged to know Barbara Wolf well. Thank you so much for recognizing her and for sharing her obituary and writings with your readers.

Barbara and I had an interesting symbiotic relationship; one that recognized my role as her priest and pastor, and yet one that also acknowledged her as 'Mamawolf' for me as well. I always appreciated her insights on life in the church generally, and at S. Mary's in particular. Two particular conversations have come to the fore in my memory since she died. Barbara wrote the Parish Profile that led to my coming to S. Mary's. In the inevitable section, 'What we look for in a priest', she concluded by quoting a survey. 'We desire a priest who has a sense of one's self as a flawed and fumbling yet beloved and purposeful child of God'. When I read that description my thought was, 'I'm your man'. Barbara later confided in me that she was the source of the quote. 'The point of that statement', she said, 'is not that we wanted a priest who was a beloved and purposeful child of God, because all priests are. But most don't see themselves as flawed and fumbling. We wanted someone who was willing to be flawed and fumbling'.

At one of my flawed and fumbling times I was trying to make a decision about getting divorced. I was trying to discern God's will for my life. I consulted Barbara who listened very compassionately and then said, 'Deary, you're working too hard. Sometimes God just gives us choices and gives us the gift of being okay with God either way'. IMHO both statements reflect Barbara's compassion, wisdom, and sense of humor.

Thanks, Barbara. Rest in Peace.

In Christ,

The Reverend Thomas Luck
Falmouth, Maine, USA

• Fred and Barbara Wolf were stars in the church sky when I began work with the Canadian Church's Department of Religious Education in 1958, charged with the task of introducing to the Church the dynamics of small groups in Education and management. Along came Journey in Faith, an innovation which put all our assumptions about learning to work. It was a beacon of light in a time of renewal; part of a movement which glittered with Episcopalian stardust emanating from Seabury House and later the Episcopal Church headquarters on Second Avenue in New York; which raised the laity up from silence to shared thought, from obedience to significance; a time when unrealized talents began to shine through participation in small groups everywhere.

The Wolfs were magic names as we laboured week after week instituting the small group experience in conference centres across Canada in the 1960s.

Harold Macdonald
St John's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Matlock, Manitoba, Canada

'Sober and droll': We like that!

Your sober but droll summaries of the news alone are often worth the price all by themselves. Oh, that's right, there is no price—you do this as a ministry, patiently informing us, week after week, year after year.

I hesitate even to suggest adding to your workload, but have you thought about a Sermons section, where clergyfolk can submit their favorite orations for possible posting to share with your readers?

Keep up the marvelous work; we're all in your debt.

DC Toedt
Houston, Texas, USA

We've planned such a section for some time; we're hope to launch it sometime in the next few months. [The News Centre editor reports that he drinks only Apollinaris water while editing. Very sober.]

Pay per view: Another take

Last week we published a letter complaining about access fees being imposed by some English papers.

As the Advertisement Manager for Church Times and trying to make a living for a few staff who operate the paper and online version of the paper I find it interesting that letters to your site should bemoan the charging for internet access. Apart from a few altruistic individuals that run sites like AO how do people really believe that commercial organisation like The Times, The Independent and indeed Church Times are supposed to fund their web presence?

Stephen Dutton
Colchester, England.

Can any chat room be God-pleasing? Hmm.

Dear Editors of AO, It has been a pleasure to have known about this webpage. Being an Anglican, like many other Christians it is comforting to read about how other fellow Anglicans are doing in other parts of the world. I always look forward to read the front page of the AO website every Monday (due to time difference) and enjoyed the articles. I do hope to see a forum page or something where Christians can post their opinions and voice out provided that it is done in a proper and God-pleasing manner. Thank you. Regards from Singapore.

Gabriel Leng
St Andrew's Cathedral

The Reverend Robert Board

I would like for your readers to hear of the passing of one of the 'quiet' leaders of the Episcopal Church and a wonderful pastor. The Reverend Robert C. Board of Louisville, Kentucky USA died there on Sunday May. 19. Fr Board was 95 years old and until his retirement in 1975, spent his entire ministry as Rector of St. Lukes Church and St. James Church near Louisville. He was a graduate of General Seminary in New York City. Fr Board devoted his entire life to the church, and his parish. Though never married, Fr Board leaves a large Louisville 'family' that mourns his passing, and celebrates a long life well lived.

Allen S. Hamilton III
St. Martin in the Fields
Atlanta, Georgia, USA

A spellbinding archbishop

Dear AO, Thanks for your wonderful ministry. I read you avidly every week, and it keeps me in touch with the Anglican Communion rather than just the good old C of E!

Some good news: I and friends have recently been to hear Rowan Williams at Salisbury Cathedral give a series of lectures on Church History. The Cathedral was packed, with lots of young people, and he held us spellbound for an hour. He was lucid, stimulating, humble, and courteous.

It was wonderful to eavesdrop on people as they left, and hear how he had encouraged them to explore their faith and tradition. We were deeply thankful; to God for enriching us with the ministry of this wise and godly man. As a Benedictine Oblate, I was also impressed and enriched by his sermon at the conference on Benedictine Spirituality 'Shaping Holy Lives' at Trinity Wall Street on 29th. April 2003. If only we could listen to each other, as St Benedict teaches, we could be enriched by each other's path to God.

The Reverend Gerry Reilly, retired
Crewkerne, Somerset, UK

Clergy checks and screening

Re news item 17 May 2003: Australian clergy face police checks. The Age (Melbourne) reports that the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Watson, has asked all clergy and certain categories of church workers in the archdiocese to promptly submit to police character checks to confirm their suitability for church work.

Is it not standard practice in most dioceses to require postulants to submit to police and social service / child protection checks? I certainly hope so! (Police checks are insufficient in my experience, and the checks must be done in the places the person has lived.) Do not bishops require some screening of those who transfer in? To not do so would suggest liability I think (and have seen) to not have taken proper care in appointing. One would think this would be standard, particularly after the school abuse situations in several countries, and the relatively (sadly) frequent news of persons in positions of leadership or responsibility misbehaving sexually.

Thank-you for providing this valuable web service.

WJ Arnold PhD, RDPsych (Sask)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

'Beautiful balance'

Dear Everybody at What a great idea, to have a letters section. You don't know how often I have wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this site. You manage to hold in beautiful balance all the tensions that make the Anglican Communion the strange and wonderful thing it is. It is beneficial to be able to tap into other parts of the Communion, to learn about prevailing thoughts and issues in different parts of the world as it relates to the Anglican Church.

Here in Canada, we struggle with the Residential Schools fallout and the ongoing discussions about the blessing of same-sex unions. As a relatively liberal Anglican, I support the reparations to be made to the indigenous people for the humiliation and treatment they suffered at the hands of some members of the church during the residential school years, but I have problems with the church taking the blame for the whole mess! I support same-sex blessings, and wish more people would read the first letter of John Chapter 4... especially the last two verses!

Thank you for your invaluable service to the church, and to the people of God.

Rene Jamieson
The Cathedral Church of St John, Diocese of Rupert's Land
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

The Church of South India: Can you help?

Greetings to you in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We should make a new impact on our society and the people around us. This is doubly important if you are living among non-christians.

My Diocese is engaged in many mission activities, one of which is taking care of the girl children in India. I want whoever reads this to join us in our mission of taking care of girl children who are abandoned and are not properly looked after. There are several girl children who are not sent to school but sent to work and so on. Will you join us? Thanks.

Right Reverend Thomas Samuel, Bishop
Church of South India
Kottayam 686001, Kerala State, India

We hope to develop, in the near future, a new section at AO where notices and appeals for assistance such as this one can be posted from around the Communion.

Earlier letters

All of our letters are in our archives; here are links to the last few weeks, in case you missed them. Our 'Letters to AO' section began 18 May 2003.

11-18 May 2003, including 'The REALLY Big Clerical Directory', 'The ABC and his non-fan mail', and 'Pay Per View'.


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